As record-breaking numbers of people lose their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic, many are also losing their employer's health insurance. It's important to understand your options and take action right away, so you don't have gaps in coverage if you get sick.
First, find out when your coverage is ending. You may have coverage until the end of the month you're laid off or longer, depending on your employer. Wayne Sakamoto, an independent health insurance agent and consultant in Naples, Florida, works with several restaurants, retailers and entertainment businesses that laid off employees in mid-March, but are paying their health insurance premiums through April. “It's a fluid situation,” says Sakamoto. “Some employers would like to at least extend coverage for another month, and hopefully keep people on their policies."
After your employer's coverage ends, you can usually continue your employer's coverage (but pay much higher premiums) or buy a policy on your own. The best choice for you depends on each policy's premiums, coverage and provider network — and whether you've already had a lot of medical expenses in 2020. “For some people, it could be a wash, and it might be easier to stay on your employer's plan, but for some people, there's going to be a really big difference,” says John Barkett, senior director of policy affairs for Willis Towers Watson, a benefits consulting firm. “It's worth it to do the comparison."
Here's what you need to consider when assessing your options.